Two of Britain's major supermarkets have been challenged by Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland (S&TCS) to live up to their claims of ‘environmental responsibility’ by stopping the supply of Scottish farmed salmon on their shelves from regions in the west Highlands and Islands where sea lice infestation is still rampant.
The challenge puts the green credentials of the Co-Op and Sainsbury’s on the line as the farms they are using are situated in regions where sea lice numbers have been recorded well over both industry criteria and new Government trigger-levels – levels which, fisheries scientists agree, threaten huge harm to wild salmon and sea trout survival.
Andrew Graham-Stewart, Director of S&TCS, said: “By purchasing farmed salmon from regions where sea lice parasite numbers on farmed fish are so high, both Sainsbury’s and the Co-Op are failing to live up to their mantras of responsible sourcing. These supermarkets should now use their commercial clout in line with their declared environmental policies and issue ultimatums that they will cease buying any more fish from farms in badly lice-hit regions. Without such commercial pressure the salmon farmers will continue to operate with sea lice levels that will inevitably cause massive damage to wild fish, killing juvenile wild salmon and sea trout as they go to sea for the first time.”
According to the latest data published by the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation’s (SSPO), the worst regions for sea lice control from July to September included:
• Loch Long and Croe, from where Marine Harvest salmon has been ‘responsibly sourced’ onto Sainsbury’s shelves this autumn;
• Loch Fyne, from where The Scottish Salmon Company has been supplying Co-Op supermarkets this autumn;
• the west of the Isle of Lewis, from where The Scottish Salmon Company has been supplying the Co-Op this autumn; and
• Harris, from where Marine Harvest has been supplying Sainsbury’s this autumn.
The Co-op says that its responsible fish sourcing policy "ensures we only source fish from well-managed fisheries or farms".
In promoting its sustainable fisheries policy, Sainbury's say it strives to "source fish from fisheries which are managed to ensure fish populations remain healthy and where fishing methods minimise environmental impact. This ensures we can all enjoy great-quality fish now, and be confident of healthy fish stocks in the future."
Over the past year to September 2016, data produced by the SSPO revealed that, for at least one month this year, 80.1% of Scottish farmed salmon regions have been rated as over the industry limit for lice per fish, now the S&TC(S) is calling on both supermarkets to back their fisheries policies and give ultimatums on sea-lice levels to farmed salmon suppliers.